Today on Wildman’s Corner, I catch up with Chris Malloy, the first-year head coach at the University of South Florida.
Question: This is your first year as a head coach, which is something you always wanted to be. How tough was it to leave FSU, and what has your transition been like?
Answer: Very bittersweet. I went down to interview for the job and I certainly wasn’t sure I wanted to leave Tallahassee. We had done some great things there, but I wanted to do something like that at FSU with my own program. I came to USF and was blown away. The university has an amazing commitment to golf and wanting to be good. Having a supportive administration is such an important part, especially financially. The school has made a strong push in the entire athletic department, and you can see it in a city like Tampa. It was bittersweet but absolutely for the best.
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Q: Was it humbling? You left a school that was one match away from competing for a national championship to a program that needs to start from the bottom.
A: I am competitive to a fault, and I do not hide that fact. It has been very difficult this year, but I have a great bunch of guys that have bought in to what I have told them and what we are trying to do. That’s all you can really do as a coach. We have gotten better as the year has gone along, but we are also light years from where we want to be. This program is going in the right direction. Trey Jones used to always say, “When you take over a program, you just start fresh right there and that you get the train going in the right direction. You need to stop the train from going in the wrong direction, and then start getting it in the right direction and go that way.” We have started to go in the right direction, and we look forward to many great things ahead.
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Q: How do you plan on stopping that train then, and start pushing it in the right direction?
A: Our strength is our golf courses. It’s such a golf community, with so many great facilities. We have Old Memorial, Lake Jovita, Tampa Palms, along with Hunter’s Green, which is a hidden gem. They are great facilities, with excellent golf courses. Making sure that we get the best players possible from the state of Florida, and then one or two from out of state that sees the advantages of being in Florida. That’s where we have to hit hard, and that’s how we’re going to make our improvements.
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Q: What has been your hardest task as a first-year head coach?
A: Losing! As I said, I am competitive to a fault. I have told this group of mine I am not going to lower the bar for expectations. It’s not always going to be a lot of fun for them; this is a different regime with different expectations for them. That’s what’s going to make us better in the near term and the long term.
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Q: People understand that this program won’t be fixed overnight. How long do you think it will take to get this program turned around?
A: I think you see the difference now. I honestly think we can be competing within the next year for a conference championship and then go from there. I think we will have this thing rolling in the next couple of years, and I think we will surprise some folks in the near future.
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Q: What is the best advice Trey gave you as his assistant, or as an ex-employee as you headed out to USF?
A: Constructive criticism. It is OK to be unhappy with certain things you see, but have a plan, and if you are going to tell a young man what he is doing wrong, you need a solution on how he’s going to fix it and be able to help. Positive energy is what you need. You can be hard on a young man, but this game humbles you. You need to be able to put your arm around a guy when he’s down and tell him everything’s going to be OK. I know that’s broad advice, but that has been the best.
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Q: What has been your first, ‘Wow, I’m a head coach’ moment?
A: We were at Turning Stone for our first event of the year, and we played in some pretty poor weather and had gotten off to a poor start. I remember looking around for Trey Jones to ask him some advice on how to handle that round of golf, and he wasn’t there! It was me! We turned it around, but that was my first, ‘Oh, boy’ moment.